Where’s Trump? G7 picture says it all
As leaders of the world's richest and most powerful nations gathered to discuss how to fight the worst impacts of climate change, one chair sat conspicuously empty.
President Trump opted not to attend the working session on climate, biodiversity and oceans at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France.
That's despite French President and host Emmanuel Macron ensuring climate change was the key topic on the agenda and leaders pledging $30 million to fight Amazon wildfires that have captured global headlines.
Trump's absence from the talks - which also included leaders from Australia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Egypt, India, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and global organisations - chimed with his longstanding scepticism that has seen him dub climate change a "hoax" and pull out of the Paris Climate Accord in 2017.
When asked why President Trump did not attend, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said he had "scheduled meetings and bilaterals with Germany and India, so a senior member of the administration attended in his stead."
However both India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were at the talks.
At the @G7 Summit in Biarritz, I addressed the session on ‘Biodiversity, Oceans, Climate.’ Highlighted India’s large scale efforts towards eliminating single use plastic, conserving water, harnessing solar energy and, protecting flora and fauna for a sustainable future. pic.twitter.com/djS5ksgVEZ— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 26, 2019
French President Macron confirmed Trump did not attend but said he "shared our objectives" and was "fully engaged" in the fight to put Brazil's wildfires out.
TRUMP PRAISES 'TREMENDOUS UNITY'
In a lengthy press conference at the conclusion of the three-day summit with President Macron, Trump praised the "tremendous unity" of the group and blamed reports of discord as "false."
"We were accomplishing a lot," he said. "This was a very special, a very unified two and a half days and I want to thank you for it."
Macron described their bilateral meeting as "one of the most productive and interesting conversations we've had together."
However he said the G7 had seen "a lot of conflict" and "tension" meaning the leaders were only able to issue a one-page declaration on free trade at the conclusion of the summit.
When asked about the key issue of climate change, Trump said the US was the "number one energy producer in the world" and "I'm not gonna lose that wealth … on windmills, which aren't working too well."
He also proclaimed himself an "environmentalist" and said "I think I know more about the environment than most people."
Trump also faced calls from world leaders to de-escalate the trade war with China that has roiled global markets and was confronted with the surprise arrival of Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who took part in meetings on Sunday.
However he was unrepentant about market turmoil, saying he believes the US is close to negotiating a "good deal" with China, and would not rule out meeting with Iran's leader, President Rouhani, if the "circumstances were right".
"I'm looking at a really good Iran, really strong, we're not looking for regime change," he said. "And we're looking to make Iran rich again, let them be rich, let them do well," he said earlier in the summit.
TRUMP PITCHES OWN VENUE
The US will host the next meeting of the G7 club - comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States - and Trump has pitched a surprising venue.
He told reporters he is considering hosting it at his own Trump Doral resort in Miami, saying they can't find anything "that can even come close to competing with it."
"It's close to the airport … it's a great place, got tremendous acreages, many hundreds of acres so it can handle whatever happens … people are really liking it," he reportedly told the US press pool.
"We love the hotel and they also love the fact that it's right next to the airport for convenience and it's Miami."
TRUMP SAYS G7 SUMMIT COULD BE HELD AT HIS OWN FAMILY BRAND PROPERTY TRUMP DORAL NEXT YEAR IN FLORIDA. US becomes host of the rotating summit.— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) August 26, 2019
The huge resort has 643 rooms plus a championship golf course, spa, pool and private cabanas, according to its website.
It also features a "Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom" with grill restaurants and "premier dining at BLT Prime, Champions Bar & Grill, and Palm Grill"
Trump has gained a reputation for conducting state business at his private venues, including hosting world leaders at Mar-a-Lago in Florida where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese President Shinzo Abe.